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Monday, Jun 5, 2023

Plastic Bag Ban Update: Middlebury & State Senate Vote in Favor

In the annual Town Meeting vote, which took place on March 5 this year, Middlebury residents elected to pass an article to advise the town legislature to ban retail locations from distributing single-use, carry-out plastic bags. Created by Middlebury resident Amy McAninch and Amelia Miller ’20, the article proposes the ban of plastic bag usage by local retailers and establishments.

Residents in Burlington and Manchester also voted this Town Meeting day to advise a ban on plastic bags, and this past summer Brattleboro became the first town in the state to enact a complete ban.

The Vermont Senate has caught on too, recently voting in favor of an act prohibiting single-use plastic products and styrofoam. The act, S.113, was approved on March 27. If enacted, it will ban plastic bags throughout Vermont and instead require stores and restaurants to charge 10 cents or more for paper bags. The Senate bill would also ban styrofoam coffee cups and food containers, and require that restaurants only provide straws upon request.

Middlebury’s proposed ban has been a year in the works. Inspired by the plastic bag ban movement across New England, town resident McAninch initiated the proposal last spring. Miller came across McAninch’s project while researching for an Environmental Policy class assignment. After connecting through Miller’s professor, they successfully organized a petition and collected signatures from 5% of town voters. By campaigning at the Middlebury Co-op, public town events and the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, they tallied hundreds of signatures, earning the petition a spot on the town ballot.

The article specifically prohibits the distribution of plastic bags less than 4 mils (0.0004 inches) thick; plastic bags are typically one to two mils thick. Any bag thicker than 4 mils would be too expensive for single use, encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags.

The town of Middlebury and other Vermont communities may want to invest in personal reusable items next year once these bans are enacted.